A few years ago now I discovered one of my all time favourite web services . . . Pandora. Touted by some as simply ‘internet radio’ Pandora is actually far more than the occasional good tune interspersed by a cheesy DJ and the latest crap the record industry wants you to buy, much more.
In their own words Pandora just want to “play only music you’ll love” and to achieve this they developed a very interesting concept called The Music Genome Project. Essentially the project aimed to analyse different types of music to identify the musical qualities and attributes of tens of thousands of different artists and songs. Taken together these attributes or ‘genes’ as they coined them could help identify and classify each individual song regardless of it’s genre or reputation.
Now here’s the cool bit – based on your input Pandora searches for other songs and artists with similar musical attributes to your favourites, in short it suggests other music you might like – and it works! I can honestly say that Pandora has introduced me to numerous new songs and new Artists to whom I now listen regularly, people I had never heard of and would likely never have heard of were it not for Pandora.
However that’s not to say it’s perfect. Like any fledgling technology it sometimes gets things wrong, it’s quite surprising how offended you get when you’re computer suggests you like shit music. However the continuous appraisal system (thumbs up/thumbs down to each song) helps Pandora to hone it’s future proposals and keep things on track.
But here’s the rub: since July 2007 it has only been available in the US, due to licensing constraints Pandora was taken ‘off air’ in other countries, gutted, but all is not lost. Understandably Pandora themselves were pretty disappointed to have their service curtailed in such a way and it is perhaps no coincidence that their efforts to block international users has been somewhat nominal.
Log on with an international IP and you will be told “We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. . . ” logon with an anonymous IP and you will be greeted in the same way.
However with the help of Hotspot Shield and it’s secure VPN connection (Virtual Private Network) your internet connection will be encrypted and routed through Anchorfree’s secure network and voila, you can listen to Pandora again!
What’s more HotSpot Shield is also completely free, requires no technical knowledge to setup and can protect you when accessing the internet through public networks. In fact Hotspot Shield it’s a very decent application in and of itself, I won’t go into it just now, but you can download here.
Thankfully this workaround has restored order to my working day and I am again able to tap my foot along to the latest aural delights served up by the Music Genome Algorithm.
However all is still not well on the good ship Pandora – the threat of increased royalties imposed by the record industry for internet radio is a constant danger to the business model for Pandora and other online stations that stream music. A stance which is not only short sighted, but entirely ignorant in my opinion. Like it or not the Internet has been and will continue to revolutionise the way we consume media. Pandora, and other related services, have been at the forefront of inventive content delivery that I believe has enormous potential; it’s like walking into a record superstore and having your own personal assistant who knows what music you like and can make personal suggestions based on your taste, except you don’t even need to walk to the store!
So why is the industry so frightened? Well gone are the days when a label can overcharge for a CD containing 15 songs, half of which you’ve never heard or don’t even like. Then there’s the misconception that any digital file will be copied and stolen (like that couldn’t be done with CD’s!) and of course the driving down of prices by online retailers with low overheads etc. etc. Superficially at least you can see why these developments might not appeal to a wealthy industry which has enjoyed a great deal of power over the years
However things have changed and the industry needs to catch up, quick. Change is difficult and it can be painful, but resistance to the inevitable is futile and has already prompted many people to ‘vote with their feet’ by turning to piracy as the cheapest and most convenient way to source their music. I just hope that common sense prevails and the true value of online services such as Pandora as a promotional tool and channel to market are realised before it’s too late.Tags: Hotspot Shield, Internet Radio, Music Genome Project, Pandora
Categorised in: Internet
This post was written by WillyNilly